The Fulness of Life in Jesus Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Young Christian's Page - The God-Glorifying Life

"And they glorified God in me." - Gal. 1:24.

Not initially or finally for our own enjoyment, or peace, or influence, or power; not for the fulfilment of our best and deepest convictions; neither for the good of other people, must we surrender ourselves without reserve to God, seek the fulness of the Spirit's indwelling, and crave the life of victory, love, and fruitfulness; but from first to last that He may be glorified.

The Motive of Service

In a missionary training class the leader once asked the students to give their reasons for going as missionaries into the foreign field. Some gave their reason as being their personal experience of salvation making them wish to lead others to the same. Others were going out of obedience to the command of Christ, and the conviction that it was His will that the world should be evangelised; but although these and many other reasons were all splendid and true, there can be no doubt that the highest level was reached by one who said that it was purely that "He might see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied." There are numerous motives behind our Christian lives and service - e.g., fear, strong conviction, high ideals, interest; admiration, duty, and many others, and there are some which are much less worthy, savouring of personal interests and selfish ends, but we reach the highest point of Christian character when all other elements are lost in the transcendant and all-absorbing desire that in and through everything the name of our Lord should be glorified.

This was Paul's supreme aim. Everyone who is truly alive has one dominating objective in life.

Paul was a most ambitious man, but not in the direction of the limelight for himself; not to impress others with his own ability, importance, and significance. He lived, laboured, studied, and endured with the one object of commending the Christ of his Gospel and the Gospel of his Christ. Every man is known for some peculiarity of nature, habit, interest, or aim. To mention people's names is usually to bring at once into mind something with which they are closely associated.

A Mirror Reflecting God

Now, if we are to take the true significance of the words at the head of this article, and many other such allusions, we are to understand that Paul was never thought of by some people apart from God. That is, to mention Paul in certain circles was at once to conjure up in the minds of those people the Grace of God. They saw the Grace of God in him. His life and presence made God real to them. Their faith was strengthened their lives enriched, God came very near to them when Paul was there. They glorified God in him.

This was the dominating ambition of his life, and there is no greater or higher. It was not always thus. In the same verse he tells us that he had once been known as the man who persecuted and made havoc of the Church. To have mentioned his name at one time would have suggested very different ideas and created very different feelings. It was the contrast - read the context - which underpinned this glorifying of God on Paul's account, and we must very carefully bear in mind that God can be glorified in us first of all by the difference that His grace makes. We have heard people blame their peculiar temperament and make-up for certain things which were not very honouring to their Lord. Others have excused certain distinct faults - such as rashness of speech, hasteness of temper, impetuosity of spirit or impulsiveness of action, on the grounds that they were like Simon Peter, with whom the Lord was very patient. Now this sort of thing will not do. Simon Peter was a very different man after the Cross and Pentecost, so was every other disciple, and let us repeat, it was the contrast made by grace in Paul that made men give glory to Paul's Lord.

We shall arrest men and make them remark upon the wonders of grace when they see patience where there was once impetuosity, love where there was once cruelty, intolerance, or bitterness; quietness where bluster and rage prevailed; generosity and magnanimity in the place of meanness, bigotry, and selfishness, and so on.

From the Divine Standpoint

It is a pleasure to be able to say that there are some known to us who really do, by contact with them, make us feel nearer God, who do give us more hope in Him and infect us with His joy and love.

For them we cannot help thanking God, and we pray that we, too, may be the means of some glorifying God in us.

This principle of God's glory is the key with which we can unlock the doors of mysterious experiences. It was the custom of the Jews to account for suffering and death by the sin of the afflicted, and the disciples, seeing a man born blind, made it quite clear that they were not exceptions to such a narrow judgment. They said, "Who did sin, this man or his parents?" Whereupon Christ exploded their theory by introducing another which it is very difficult for people of weak faith to accept. He gave as the reason for the man's blindness, "That the works of God should be manifest in him." Something quite similar was said about the sickness and death of Lazarus, and many other things which occurred during those days can fairly truthfully be interpreted in the same light. It is certain that Paul viewed things thus. Said he: "The things which happened unto us have fallen out for the furtherance of the Gospel." Many difficulties might have been prevented, many apparent calamities have been averted, many episodes of extreme gravity might never have been inculcated into the apostolic programme, were it not that they were serving a purpose to the glory of God which could not have been served without them. It does seem - as we read both Old and New Testaments - that very often God either raises up difficulties or permits them to arise in order that by their very destruction or removal He may be glorified. God give us the love for His glory which shall create in us a faith which interprets every sorrow, disappointment, reverse, temptation, and conflict, in the light of a possible contribution to His honour, either by the grace given us to bear it, or by the actual removal of it, or by the method of its removal, or by what it may achieve in someone else.

A Broad Guiding Principle

"God worketh in all things good to those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose," but His activity is not primarily for their good, but for the manifestation unto the world of His own power, love, and wisdom.

Then, again, this principle should be the governing motive of Christian conduct. We are always hearing discussions upon questionable or doubtful things, lawfulness and expediency. For those who are unreservedly out-and-out for Christ, the last word in all matters of this kind is "can this thing really contribute to the supreme end for which I have a being and have dedicated myself - i.e., the glory of God, and that Christ may be all in all?"

We lay it down as a broad guiding principle. Our lives must be of a positive character, having not a single negative or neutral element in them. We cannot live on the bulkhead principle, shutting physical, mental, and spiritual into watertight compartments. Our unity is so absolute that unhealthiness in the least member has an effect upon the whole constitution. It is a grand thing when every sphere of life is made to definitely contribute to the glory of God, but we must remember that there are elements in life which are totally foreign to any such idea. We are sure that no greater epitaph could be inscribed to any man's memory than that "they glorified God in me," and we write with one object only - that there may be more who, by the high principle of their lives, and the regulation of all other matters, the way in which they regard the things that happen unto them, the pure and joyful disinterestedness of sacrifice and service, reveal to the darkened minds and shadowed lives around them the glory of Him Whose they are and Whom they serve.

"Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you before His presence without spot, in exceeding joy; to the only God our Saviour, be glory, honour, dominion, and power, through all time, now and for evermore. Amen."

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